Entrepreneur Turns List Building Into an Extreme Sport
In fact, GetFreeStickers president Brett Vogel works as hard to keep the list small as most marketers do to grow their lists. It is purposely not listed on search engines, and Vogel scours the Internet daily to make sure it never appears on Web sites that list sites featuring stuff for free.
"We've been trying to really manage our growth and make sure we have the right kids on there," he said. "If we ever get shown on a site we don't want to be on, we get ourselves off immediately -- especially the freebie sites."
And, even when someone manages to find the GetFreeStickers.com Web site, a two-question quiz -- one about skateboarding and one about snowboarding -- must be passed before access is granted.
"We have the two questions on there basically as a filter," Vogel said. "People who know about these sports know the answers."
All the secrecy could turn out to be just what marketers need to tap into the notoriously hard-to-reach teen boy market. While Alloy and Delia's have had success with teen girls resulting in healthy mailing lists, both abandoned attempts to reach their male counterparts. Marketers trying to target teen boys have had better luck renting the relatively small files of surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding magazines.
Once admitted to GetFreeStickers' site, users must register and fill out a detailed survey that includes demographic information, the extreme sports they participate in and what their favorite brands are in categories such as skateboards, snowboards, BMX and footwear.
At the end of the survey comes the all-important opt-in for third-party marketing messages. There are two opt-in questions regarding e-mail and direct mail solicitations. The site is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires parental consent when collecting personal information from children 13 and younger.
After completing the survey, users get the payoff for wending through the registration process -- the ability to order free stickers provided by extreme sport brands Vogel works with. The stickers show up in three to six weeks with a message not to tell their friends about Vogel's site unless they ride.
"We're just trying to create a super-targeted database," Vogel said.
Companies pay GetFreeStickers 15 cents for each sticker it sends in exchange for the exposure and the data on the people requesting their brands' stickers.
Each vendor gets a monthly report with information such as number of registrants, average age, sports participated in and favorite brands by category. The brand information is particularly telling for vendors since it allows them to see how they stack up against their competition.
There is a minimum of six free stickers per order, making it possible for Vogel to cover postage costs and still make a little bit of money. Putting the mailing list on the market will be another source of revenue for GetFreeStickers.com. The database is 80 percent male with an average age of 16.
However, marketers should not be deterred by the demographics, Vogel said.
"These kids are definitely consumers of all this stuff," he said. "The X Games is a carnival of retail. There are tons of moms at the X Games."
Though the business is still small, it has come a long way since Vogel dreamed up the idea in 1999. The site launched in October 2000 with Vogel and his friends promoting it by giving out GetFreeStickers.com stickers at extreme sporting events, ski slopes, snowboard and skateboard parks and industry trade shows.
"The main way we got kids to the site was going to the major events like the X Games and Gravity Games," Vogel said. "Everyone I work with rides snowboards and skateboards and all that so we're already going to all these places anyway. We go out and hand out thousands of stickers to kids."
Recently, GetFreeStickers.com partnered with a market research firm and wants to explore other marketing opportunities.
In the meantime, Vogel is perfectly happy practicing marketing as an extreme sport.
"It's definitely a lifestyle job," he said. "I'm out there riding all the time and I know where these kids are coming from."